Among the types of conflict, Hip Hop in 2009 abundantly celebrates the
man vs. man type. Battles, beefs, subliminal disses and nameless
competitive threats drive not only the marketplace, but many of its
most talked about records. A former product of that, Joe Budden
[click to read] delivers Padded Room, the effort where the New Jersey underground hero
settles and pushes aside all his many past conflicts with others, to
have the time and energy to truly deal with himself on a deeper level.
The psycho-analysis is public, it’s honest and it’s executed through
some of the best writing and rapping of Joe‘s patient-but-powerful

Moving from mixtapes to albums, this may be considered
the debut of Budden‘s independent-era career. No longer retained by an
A&R, his witty lyricism and sharp rhymes aren’t held back here.
From the introductory “Now I Lay,” Joe sets the stage for the LP,
saying, “Fuck y’all! I ain’t gotta explain myself,” before doing just that. “I don’t care how you rate me/It’ll take a long
time to evaluate me
,” he adds before claiming a straight jacket
couldn’t hold him.

Through the majority of the LP, “Regular Joe”
manages to spit rhymes that sound like they’re coming straight from a
psychiatrist’s transcripts. From a personal vacation from stress
(“Don’t Take Me”), to the remorseful father who once contemplated the
abortion of his only son (“I Couldn’t Help It,” where he also speaks on
getting with a fellow rapper’s girl), Budden unleashes his truth with
no filter or rose-tinted glass. Sometimes, his rhymes sound like
correspondence letters, speaking to his brothers about their future
(“Blood on the Wall”), and writing to everyone in his life as if it was
his last rhyme ever (“Do Tell”). He opens up even more in a
hypothetical conversation with God (“Pray for Me”) as he argues with
The Lord about everything from Aids to retardation and starvation, only
to find more truth about his own pitfalls. Joe then spits as if he was
in a mental institution (“Angel in My Life”) just to tie loose ends
with the album’s title. “They say the room’s padded for my own
safety/But the cushion don’t soften shit/ They lock the door, but
still, they let my thoughts in it.

Another notable highlight
is Joey‘s progressive flow. Throughout the album, especially shown
on “Exxxes” and “In My Sleep,” Joe expands his toolbox, riding beats
with more melodies than usual. This helps Budden‘s rhymes connect more
with a wider range of listeners while never losing his lyrical aptitude
in the process. On an album that channels a psychiatric evaluation of
an emcee through well thought out rhyme patterns and meditative
narration, the flow is crucial to driving the point home. And it does.

lyrically, this is a new plateau and an exciting, polished album,
Padded Room‘s accompanying music marks Joe‘s independent arrival with
the disappointments of independent production budgets. The hard-to-take-serious
Blastah Beatz placement on “Now I Lay” is followed by an even weaker
instrumental by Fyu-Chur for The Game-assisted letdown “The Future” [click to listen].
Dub B‘s “Adrenaline” sounds extremely out of place, while Quan‘s “Happy
Holidays” ultimately feels like filler music to the lyrics. Many of the
other records carry their weight musically, but for the same artist
backed by Just Blaze and White Boy six years ago, the homegrown talents
are strong in mixtapes, but leave more to be desired on retail product.

Despite a minor shortcoming, Joe Budden has released a candid
and thought provoking piece of work. It’s something that many fans have
been waiting for. Even with miscues on board, it’s still the album
mainstream rappers attempt to make on paper, and the kind of writing
that many independents can’t seem to keep up with.